St. Barbara Church is rich with history and tradition. Sadly, many of our parishioners are not aware of the foundation of faith, hope, and love, which was forged by the founding members of our parish. Nowhere is this more prevalent than our parish cemetery located on Claridge Elliott Road in Claridge. The parish cemetery is the last remaining original physical vestige of our history.
With the wave of Southern and Eastern European immigrants arriving into the area to work in the coal mines of Claridge and McCullough in the late 1800s and early 1900s, there was a need for a place of worship for the predominantly Catholic families. The early founder's broke barriers of language, customs, and loyalty from their native lands because of a commonality of faith and a hope of a better life for their sons and daughters.
On April 29, 1903, Anton Lipinski, acting on behalf of the Catholic families of Claridge, purchased a former Protestant Church located on Church St. in Claridge. The parish was formed as a "mission" of St. Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church inExport. St. Barbara was chosen as the titular patroness as she was the patron saint of miners.
The next obstacle of the early founders was to satisfy their desire to obtain a final resting place for their families. There were few alternatives due to their Catholic faith. In 1909 the Manor Gas and Coal Company made an agreement with the Catholic miners to deed to the church a forested property on Claridge Elliott Road. An agreement was made that the church could have whatever land that the miners could clear. The men of the church forged ahead to clear an approximate two-acre parcel. In 1959, an additional ½ acre was donated to the church by Catherine Borgo and her son John.
It should be noted that currently our land, for its size, holds one of the largest number of veteran and first responder grave sites in comparison to other cemeteries in the area. Parishioners are always encouraged to visit the cemetery during our All Souls Day and Memorial Day ceremonies.
The church cemetery more than fulfilled the dreams of the early founders. Their desire has provided our church family with a final resting place for our mortal remains for over two generations. The men and women of the second generation who paved the road for our becoming a parish and were directly responsible for building our current facility, now rest in peace at the cemetery. Their service and dedication to St. Barbara Church has been unmatched.
Now, with the influx of new members, we need to explore our options. The cemetery has become a major priority of our current cemetery committee members and council representatives. Without the sacrifices of so many who are entombed at our parish cemetery, our present status would not be possible.